French gardens

Marqueyssac in the Dordogne


Marqueyssac_3Inspired by the lovely gardens of the late Nicole de Vesian in Provence, I am working on developing a clipped garden to the north of our kitchen, so the view from our balcony will always be green and orderly.  Not that I’m really the orderly type – but over the past few years I have found the profusion of roses, foxgloves and delphiniums I had planted in long and deep perennial beds, slightly overwhelming and busy.  And  when the gorgeous, blowsy spring show is over and the harsh light of the Australian summer burns out the colour,  the effect looks raggedy very quickly.   And by Christmas it is tired and hot and exhausted.

So bit by bit I’m removing all the flowering perennials from the section closest to the house and replacing them with clipped box, cistus, bay, Viburnum Tinus and  miniature abelia.  It requires a lot of patience as the plants need to be spaced far enough apart for future growth and so there’s a lot of mulch still on view!  But one day, I am dreaming of a view such as this seen at  the Château de Marqueyssac. 

The Gardens Of Marqueyssac

Comfortably nestled into the hills of Perigord are the Gardens Of Marqueyssac. The gardens were planted in 1861 by Julien De Cerval – a maniacal gardener who gave the last thirty years of his life to build Marqueyssac. Boxwoods were chosen as a key plant of the garden because of their fullness, robust texture, and radiant green color. Every path in the garden was put there with an acute intent, what seems accidental and whimsical, was in fact carefully thought out.  De Cerval wanted to create a romantic experience for the garden’s visitors where they would get lost within the paths and enjoy the organic shapes of the plants. In recent years the gardens and nearby castles went under a full renovation to restore De Cervals early dream of the garden and bring people from all over the world to witness it.




Inspired by Monet’s Garden

Today I’m making plans for a little waterfall into our new duck pond.  This will aerate the water and provide a pleasant watery sound in the garden.  The plan is that it will emerge mysteriously from a densely planted shrubbery and meander down a pebble lined creek bed, under a little bridge and into the pond where the ducks like to play.  I need to be sure about the right plants for such a feature so that it will look appealing but natural and not too contrived.  Of course there is no lovelier water feature than the one in the images below – the spectacular water lily ponds at Monet’s Garden near Giverny in France.

I visited Monet’s Garden with my brother Peter back in 1988 when it had not long been opened to the public after a major restoration by an American philanthropist.  What an experience … standing in Monet’s very bedroom  looking out over the gardens that inspired so much of his work.  He made the gardens especially to provide subject material without ever having to leave home!  Planting over the years on a massive scale to create swathes of light and shadow, blocks of colour and magical water features to challenge his ability to paint reflected light.  If you’ve never been, go! About one hour from Paris by train – stop at Giverny and take a short 3 mile taxi ride to the gardens.  No picnicking allowed, so be sure to eat something first … and take your best camera.  There are many books about this wonderful garden, and ‘The Magic of Monet’s Garden’ is my favourite.



The Magic of Monet's Garden

Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926) created a magnificent five-acre garden that he considered to be his greatest artistic achievement. It was restored in 1980 and is now the most visited garden of its size in the Western world. With its spectacular color combinations and distinctive structural elements, the Monet garden at Giverny, France, inspires the dreams of thousands of gardeners.

Award-winning garden writer and photographer Derek Fell has visited Giverny many times and always admired the beauty of its plantings and the subtle balance of colors. After years of carefully studying Monet’s design and plantings, he shares the artist’s secrets. In The Magic of Monet’s Garden, Fell reveals Monet’s breathtaking color harmonies and describes how the artist “painted” his living masterpiece. He guides the reader on how to scale down Monet’s ideas for the home garden, with attention to:

  • Understanding the laws of colors
  • Building color harmonies
  • Creating innovative combinations
  • Recognizing the power of monochromatic plantings
  • Using black in the garden
  • Working with structure and form
  • Building rhythm and surprise
  • Capitalizing on sunlight and shadow
  • Incorporating water features
  • Attracting birds and butterflies.

With 175 color photographs and illustrations and a dozen detailed planting plans, The Magic of Monet’s Garden will inspire and instruct home gardeners to create their own versions of Giverny.

And another you will love is entitled Claude Monet’s Gardens at Giverny.

 claude monet's garden